Mulan, one of my favorite all-time Disney movies and heroines, is a feminist. I don’t know how you can miss it. The entire time throughout the movie, men and women are telling her what she must do and who she must be, and a woman should ____. Get married. Bear sons. Be punctual. Poised. Graceful. Skinny, but not too skinny. Able to fricken pour tea without setting the Matchmaker on fire, for goodness sake! Mulan is not any of those things, and she struggles with her self-identity, fearful of failing and bringing shame to her family.
Then a war starts. Her father is wounded and can’t go to war, but he must. So, to protect her father, she cuts her hair, dresses as a dude, and enlists in his place, but (surprise!) struggles. All her life, she’s been a woman, delicate and fragile and lovely. Now it’s Be a Man, dammit! Finally, she’s allowed to grow, to become strong, to think, to sweat, and eventually she rises up the ranks to one of the best soldiers there. She becomes as swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon.
(Off topic, do we hear all the ways they are characterizing men? It’s all really violent natural disasters; the pinnacle being mysterious as the dark side of the moon. All the way into space now, huh? You’re not just the most terrifying and destructive things on Earth, but otherworldly. I see. Interesting.)
So then they go off to battle. And this is not a normal battle. This is like fifty billion-to-one massive start-praying-guys-cause-we-are-so-effed smackdown. But is Mulan terrified? Hell no. She’s all like “Chilax guys, I got this.” Mulan, single-handedly, with one cannon, takes down the swarming anthill of Huns. Then, when she tries to warn people that the head Hun dude Shan-Yu is still alive, no one listens to her! After saving all these people, no one will take her seriously just because she’s an innie instead of an outie. At this point, if it were me, I’d say screw them. Just go home, take a nap, and let Shan-Yu teach them a lesson, but Mulan is a much better person than I am.
Then, my absolute favorite part, the soldiers are trying to break into the palace after Shan-Yu kidnaps the Emperor (the same way Gaston tries to break into the Beast’s castle), and the boys leave General Li (which is technically abandonment) to follow Mulan and crossdress as: Concubines.
And damn, do they look fabulous!
Mulan goes on to save the Emperor herself, and General Li, then kills Shan-Yu, saving China a second time, and after all that manages to scrape together a great fireworks show to celebrate. Then she goes home. She rejects the money, the fame, the prestige she’s offered and goes home to her family with no regrets. That’s how you do it. Kick their asses to Kingdom Come, then walk away. Like Cincinnatus.
And then all of China bows down to you. That part still gives me chills.
The coolest thing about Mulan however, is that she most likely may have probably actually existed!
This story if very old, like 12th century old, so some of the details may be a bit fuzzy, but basically it went down like this:
Her name was Hua Mulan. The bad guy was Tujie. Tujie decided that he wanted more land, and the best and easiest way to get more land was to take it from others. That didn’t got down so well, so the Emperor decided to wage war, and a man from every family was called. Mulan’s father had taught her how to fight, but he was old, and her little brother was too young. He wouldn’t let Mulan go in his place, and so she dressed up as a boy and confronted her father in a fight and won, proving she could handle herself. He was convinced. But he still didn’t want her to go, so she dressed as a man again and went anyways. Like all stubborn children do.
The war lasted 12 years, and Mulan was an exceptional soldier, eventually becoming a general. No one discovered her secret, not even her good friend General Li.
Finally, the enemy king was ambushed and captured. The war was over. Money was handed out to all the soldiers, but Mulan refused, wanting only a camel to get home. She wanted to get out of there as fast as possible because he commanding General thought Mulan would be a perfect husband for his daughter. So Mulan pretended to be injured and snuck away on her camel.
But this commander dude couldn’t take a hint, so he sent General Li after her with wedding gifts and instructions to go arrange the marriage. And then Li discovered General Mulan was a in fact woman! So what did he do? The only logical thing. He married her. And everyone lived happily ever after… as far as we can tell.
Feminist in cartoon and in life. Long story short: Mulan was a pretty badass woman lady person.